This was first published on ksl.com
I am in a wonderful relationship. I feel very loved, and I love her. We respect each other’s differences and appreciate them. However, something has recently come up: my partner has started smoking socially. I am a religious person and she is not, but that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is that she is a recovering addict and she’s been sober for two years, but I’m afraid she is going to use smoking to replace her old vice. Would I be controlling or rude if I told her I was concerned by her smoking? She is pretty stressed right now, and I want to help her, but I can’t stand thinking that she’s going to develop another harmful habit.
It sounds like what you're asking is how to give negative feedback about another person’s problem or bad habit without making them feel defensive or attacked. Here are some tips and a very soft approach to making these tricky conversations easier.
Treat the other person as an equal
When you treat the other person as an equal, you do not talk down to them. We all have a subconscious tendency to see bad behavior in another person as making them "less good" than we are, and we might accidentally come across as thinking we are "better" if we aren’t careful. It is important that you remember that even though you don’t have this problem or bad habit, you have others. You are not perfect. You have faults and flaws too. Make sure you see the other person as an equal and make them feel honored and respected for their right to be where they are. Remember, they have the same value as you. Don’t talk down or be patronizing.
Focus on gaining understanding
Go into the conversation with your only agenda being to gain understanding and make the other person feel valued. Don’t have an agenda around changing or fixing them; if you do, they will pick up on this and likely get defensive from the start. Go into this conversation with the primary goal of showing them you care about, honor and respect them. You can have a topic in mind — in this case, to understand more about their smoking — but with no agenda around it.
Ask for permission to approach the subject
Ask the other person if they would be willing to have a conversation about smoking so you can know and love them better. Go ahead and let them know the topic you want to talk about, but reassure them that you are going to really listen and will not lecture, push your opinions, or interrupt. Make sure they feel safe with you. If you have not been a good listener in the past, you might have to apologize for that and ask them to please give you another chance to show up better.
Ask non-judgmental questions
Ask them questions about what they think and feel around the topic but make sure the questions don’t sound judgmental. Questions like: "Why in the world would you want to smoke? and "Don’t you know how damaging it is?" are judgmental questions. Instead, try something like "I really want to understand about smoking, I guess I don’t really understand the appeal. Would you be willing to educate me and help me understand why you like it? I promise my asking is not from judgment, but just from wanting to understand you so I can support you better. Would you tell me about what it does for you?" Notice the lack of agenda in that? The other person is not going to be honest and share their feelings if they feel you are going to make them feel wrong or bad. They have to feel they have a safe place to share.
Don't agree or disagree
Don't agree or disagree with what the other person says. Simply listen and validate their right to be where they are and feel the way they do. Say things like, "I can totally see why you might feel that way. Tell me more about that." Remember, you can disagree with what they say or think and still validate their right to feel the way they do. If you strongly disagree with their views, bite your tongue and don’t go there yet.
Be open to making your own changes
If you want someone to hear you, listen to your views, and possibly change their viewpoint or behavior, you must first show them you are also open to changing yours (you might want to read that again). This is the crucial piece. If you are stubbornly dug into your being right, they are going to do the same. If they can feel that you are open to learning, understanding, and even being wrong, they can let their defenses come down because they are safe to do so. They likely will be more open, too. You may have to prove that you are this open by actually bending and admitting you are learning some things here that make you rethink your position.
Ask to share your views
After the other person has had awhile to really explain their views, and they feel heard and validated, then and only then can you ask permission to share your views. Ask them if they know that you love them and only want the best for them. Ask them if they know you are coming from a position of only love, not judgment. Very respectfully ask them if they would be willing to let you share some of your concerns about smoking and why it scares you. Let them know if they don’t feel comfortable hearing your views on this, that is OK too. This makes this a real question, not a rhetorical one. If they say they are not open to hearing your views, you must say, "OK, I respect that" and walk away. Your willingness to honor their answer builds trust in the relationship.
Follow 2 simple rules
When the other person is ready to listen to you, follow these two simple rules:
Love, encourage and validate
If a person feels you are trying to change them, they will always resist changing. If they feel your unconditional love and support, and if you express concern from love and caring (not judgment) and are willing to listen, understand, and even learn something you didn’t know, they will be more open.
The best way to get someone to change something about themselves is through encouragement and positive validation. You could watch for times that she makes good health choices and tell her how awesome she is that she cares about her health and makes those choices. Let her know you admire the way she quit her previous addictive behavior and that you really love and respect her for that (without saying anything about smoking). If you make these comments every once in awhile, she might want to live up to your highest opinion of her and decide to change her habits on her own because she wants to be that person that you see.
Remember, though, you must stay out of judgment and let go of the idea that you are right and she is wrong. Show up with total respect for her and her choices, and just focus on understanding and supporting her. This approach is not controlling or rude as long as you are sincere.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — In this edition of LIFEadvice, Coach Kim shares some tips and tricks to improve your relationships.
My husband feels that when our adult kids come over for Sunday dinner that I act more childlike especially if we are playing some type of game. He thinks adults should never act like children and it bothers him. From my point of view, I work very hard and I enjoy having fun especially with our kids — and since I have to be serious all day at work, it is fun to let up a bit on occasion, but he does not appreciate it. How do I respond to this and what should I do differently? Should I change to please him? Should he want me to change or love me as I am?
I have written quite a few times this year about how important it is that we allow others to be different from us. We all have a tendency to think the way we function in the world is the right way, and we subconsciously expect others to be the same and are irritated if they aren’t. This isn’t fair, right or workable in your relationships.
Every person comes with different perspectives, different internal wiring, a unique upbringing, and a different set of past experiences and views. They are, therefore, going to view and do life differently from how you do it. If you cannot allow them (and even honor and respect their right) to be who they are, the relationship is going to be a hard one and may not work.
Here are some tips, tricks, truths and rules of engagement to consider when you run into differences with someone you love:
1. If you have a different way of being that bothers your partner, you need to have a mutually validating conversation about it.
This means a conversation where you listen to their views, thoughts, feelings and concerns, and explore with your partner why the behavior triggers something negative in them. Try to understand why they feel the way they feel and honor and respect their right to feel that way. But this does not necessarily mean you should change the behavior.
2. If someone is unhappy with your behavior, you must ask yourself if you think the behavior is working for you.
Be honest with yourself and willing to see the problems or downsides of the behavior. Be willing to hear the other person's concerns about it and consider changing it. But, if you do this and you authentically like this part of yourself and think it’s working for you, ask them if they would be willing to listen to your feelings about it. Explain why it’s a part of you that is not going to change and that they will have to learn to accept. You could also look for some kind of compromise that might make you both feel honored and respected. But generally, you should not change who you authentically are unless you can see negatives in the behavior and agree that it’s not working for you.
In your specific situation with your childlike side, I tend to think you should honor and validate your partner’s feelings but continue to be you. If it doesn’t feel like a damaging enough or negative behavior that causes any real problems, your partner probably needs to learn to love you are you are.
3. You should always try to let the people you love be their authentic selves.
Allow others to have different views, beliefs, styles, routines and behaviors from yours. Never expect them to be like you. You can expect them to treat you with kindness, respect and love ,of course — and if they don’t, you should definitely talk about that — but personality type differences in behavior should be cherished, laughed at and even celebrated.
4. The key to changing another person’s view, is to be open to changing your life first.
If a person you love has major differences in values or morals, or they have views you really feel are wrong, you can speak your truth about this and even try to educate or change them, but you must do it the right way. You must first be just as willing to listen to their views as you are to talk about your own. You must handle the conversation with respect, seeing them as equal in value (because you aren’t perfect either). If you cannot approach them this way, with humility and respect, they will likely just get defensive and defend their right to be how they are. They will dig in their heels and refuse to change if you aren’t open to changing too.
5. Never assume your way of being is better or right, and others are wrong.
If you want a person to be open to learning and changing, you must be willing to listen and learn from them. You must be open to being wrong and learning something new yourself. This is the only way to encourage openness in them.
6. Be a safe place for each other.
The biggest problem I see in most relationships is that partners don’t feel safe enough to discuss critical issues with each other. They are both too quick to be offended and get defensive. They don’t feel safe with each other because they fear they are going to be made wrong or made to feel they aren’t good enough. The first thing that must change in these relationships is both partners must commit to be a safe place for the other, a place where the other's infinite value will be honored and their self-esteem protected.
7. Loved ones have more power to hurt us and, therefore, we must work twice as hard at being the cure to their fears.
We are all afraid we aren’t good enough and we aren’t safe. These are our deepest, darkest fears. We want, more than anything, to have the people we love most see us as good enough and to feel safe with them. Unfortunately, this sometimes doesn’t happen. The people we love disappoint us, let us down, irritate and offend us, and we in turn get critical and defensive. These fear reactions block our ability to love and cherish these people.
ConclusionIf you want to have healthy, rich, loving relationships, the most important thing you can do is make sure the people you love feel good enough and safe. You can literally be the cure to their core fears, instead of often being the cause. Be careful with criticism. Give lots of validation about everything they do right. Let them know, at the end of the day, they and their self-esteem are safe with you. Make it your No. 1 goal to give validation and reassurance to your partner on a daily basis. This will create a relationship based in love and trust.
You can do this.
This was first published on ksl.com
SALT LAKE CITY — There are always people in your life who you take issue with or who rub you the wrong way. There may even be some humans you just can’t stand.
It is important that you take stock of these people and why you have strong feelings against them. Maybe they did something that offended you, or they just have personalities that irritate or annoy you. Whatever the problem is, these people are triggering you for a reason, and figuring out the reason behind those triggers is important.
The people who rankle you hold clues about your beliefs, judgments, shame and inner pain. They provide opportunities for you to learn about yourself and heal. But in order to use these experiences to heal yourself, you have to recognize that they aren’t just annoying people; they are perfect teachers in your classroom.
The most important thing they do for you is show you the limits of your love. You are a loving person with love to give to everyone around you, right up until you get to THOSE people. Then, you hit a limit. Your love doesn’t extend that far. This is a place where some really amazing growth can happen if you are willing to ask yourself some questions.
What does the person represent?
Think about one of these teachers in your life who is showing you the limits of your love. Then ask yourself the following:
This is where the work starts
Now you get to explore the part of you that feels unsafe by the trait, behavior or fear this person represents. Why do you feel "not good enough" or "not safe" in the world if that trait, behavior, or fear is in play? What healing needs to happen for you so you can heal that part of you?
You may want to find some professional help from a coach or counselor for this work, but whatever you do you cannot keep projecting the problem on and blaming this other person for the way you are being triggered. They are only in your life as a teacher to help you see the place you need to heal so you can work on it.
This idea may be one you have to process and think about before you believe it’s true or worth the work. It will always feel easier to keep blaming and shaming someone else. Your ego will really want to keep making it about other people and their issues because this feels safer. The problem is that teachers will keep coming and this problem will not go away. It will keep showing up until you are ready to work on you.
Everyone you dislike holds a secret of healing and help for you if you are willing to look for it, but there is something else even more helpful they can also give you.\
Learning to love yourself
Another crucial thing you must understand about the people that bother you is they also show you the limits of your love toward yourself. You can only love yourself as much as you can love your neighbors, and you can only love your neighbors as much as you can love yourself. You may not be aware of this connection or want to believe it, but I believe it’s true. If you hate the darkness in yourself, you will hate every bit of darkness you can find in others. If you are hateful toward others, you similarly won’t be able to love yourself.
As long as there are people whose darkness (bad behavior or faults) seem to you to make them unworthy of love, there will also be parts of yourself that you will also see as unworthy of love. It’s like there are two options when it comes to love, and you are going to have to choose one. If you don’t consciously choose one, you will subconsciously choose one, so you have to choose. The two options involve how you determine the value of all human beings.
Option 1 – People can be not good enough. This mindset means you see human value as changeable and something that must be earned. This means life is like a test and you gain points or lose points based on your appearance, performance, property and what others think of you. This also means that some humans have more value than other humans and that judging who is better or worse makes sense. If you choose this option, you will gossip, judge and criticize other people because you need to see them as worse than you to feel better about yourself. You will also battle a terrible fear of not being good enough (and have low self-esteem), no matter how hard you try. You will always find people who have things about them you don’t have and you will never feel good enough. You will also see all human beings as different from you and you will feel separate from them, and this will encourage you to make more divisions and groups, trying to find some group identity that would give you a sense of safety (even though that safety comes only from hating or condemning other people). Can you see this happening in our world right now?
Option 2 – All people are always good enough. This mindset means you see human value as infinite, absolute and unchangeable. This means all humans (without exception) have the exact same intrinsic worth and there is nothing anyone can do that gives them more value than any other human being. There is also nothing you can do to have less value than any other human being. No matter what anyone does they have the same intrinsic worth as the rest of us. This will make you feel connected to the whole human race and you won’t need to form groups and declare some people better or worse. You will understand that we are all equal but different. The more you allow every human being around you to be a struggling, scared student in the classroom of life — just like you — the more compassion you will have for yourself, too. When you allow others' value to be unchangeable and you see them as good enough and worthy of love, even when they are flawed, this also lifts your worth. You will start to have stable, solid self-esteem because there is no possibility of failure. Life is a classroom, not a test, and mistakes create the lessons we need to learn, but they don’t change our value. This mindset makes you feel safer with others and could literally create more peace on Earth.
You get to decide about 20 times a day, which mindset you will choose. Every time you are tempted to judge or find fault in another person you are choosing a mindset. If you choose condemnation and judgment, you must understand you are also choosing that for yourself. If they are not good enough, you aren’t good enough, either. The option you choose for them you also choose for yourself. You can’t have it both ways.
We are on this planet to evolve, grow and learn. Every experience you have here serves that purpose, even feelings of dislike toward other people. Take the time to pay attention and think about these interesting people in your life, I promise it will serve you.
You can do this.
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Kimberly Giles is the president and founder of Claritypoint Life Coaching and 12 SHAPES INC. She is an author and professional speaker. She was named one of the top 20 advice gurus in the country by Good Morning America in 2010. She appears regularly on local and national TV and Radio.